The Cost of War in Cheerios

The Cost of War in Cheerios

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

The Cost of War in Cheerios

Bring such talents as you have, use them, and they will be multiplied.

Ernest Holmes

“Honey, the air campaign started today.”

With those few words, countless thoughts exploded in my head. Winds of war already swirled around Fort Campbell. The 101st was poised like a bullet in the barrel, aimed at the heart of the Taliban. When the Department of the Army pulled the trigger, Doug’s unit was prepared to be the first shot fired. He was ready. I was ready. But were the children?

Since 9/11, we’d grown uncomfortably familiar with the need to discuss adult realities with our preschoolers. They had seen the towers fall. And, though we were a thousand miles away from New York, the landscape of our neighborhood changed noticeably. Heightened security brought armed guards to every Fort Campbell gate. Armored military vehicles presided over major intersections on the post while aircraft patrolled the skies. And guns, tanks and helicopters soon replaced soccer, ballet and Barney as favorite dinnertime topics.

Douglas drew a deep, solemn breath before he gave voice to our silent conversation. Like other discussions before it, this one brought the dreaded barrage of unanswerable questions: Do children die in war? Will our daddy have to kill somebody else’s daddy? Will our daddy die? We replied as honestly as we could without adding to their fear and worry. In the end, we focused on the humanitarian efforts of our nation toward the Afghan people. We weren’t sure what was within their reach, but they understood far more than we gave them credit for.

The next morning, Moriah, our four-year-old, scooped dry cereal from her bowl and announced that she needed a Baggie. “Mom,” she said seriously, “when Daddy goes to defeat Osama Bin Laden, he can take this to give to the children, so they won’t be hungry.”

With the same precision that their father uses to pack his rucksack, Moriah and her five-year-old brother Keith carefully filled plastic bags with Cheerios from their own breakfast bowls. That evening, the bags of cereal were ceremoniously added to the official packing list, poignant reminders of the costs of war and the willingness of little children to pay for it.

Mary C. Chace

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